Beta This is a new service – your feedback will help us to improve it.

Dye Equivalent Colours

NOTE: These rankings are my private opinion. With the advent of a new authenticity Officer, he/she may wish to change them.

Colour Equivalents

HIndigo from murex5407319
HShellfish (non-specific)3007895
LTansy743 or 7737727
LDyers Greenweed712 or 7737727 or 7680
LWeld and Sorrel root6417676
MWeld and alum and urine7117784
MWeld and alum and alkali711*7784*
LWeld and Iron642 or 641 or 6527573 or 7583
HMadder over Woad7237767
MExhausted Madder885 or 8637175 or 7875
MMadder and alumD 2117920
MMadder and alkali9307184
MMadder and Iron7207446*
MMadder and copper8717446
MMadder and sorrel8827922
MMadder and iron mordant and iron modifier400* or 9207167 or 7199
M-HWoadD 391 or 3927301
M-HWoad561no good match
HWoad over weld6537772
HWoad over weld6917769
HMadder over woad9217209 or 7115
M-HLichens - Xanthoria Pariatina and potash (dark dried)9237193
M-HXanthoria Pariatina and alkali (sun dried)5157301
M-HOchrolechia Tartarea (Cork Lit) and ammoniaD 2117961
MParmelia Saxatalis. Boil dye723 or 7227766
M-HPlastimatia Glauca. (Glaucus leafy lichen)7277727
L-MSeaweed - Bladderwrack4527463
L-MClavophora Rupestris6047402
L-MLady's Bedstraw root and alkali and clubmoss8357951
L-MLady's Bedstraw root and clubmoss8637214

My contention is that if you have time and a suitable container for dyeing in, you are probably Middle Class. BUT - wishing to divert a rebellion in Regia, I have given Low Class in Regia some colours.


Some thoughts on interpretation

Don't treat these as an exclusive list of precise colours – instead consider them to be an indication of the range of colours available and their relative costs.

There were probably two kinds of dyeing taking place in Britain during Regia’s period – that of the professional dyer and maybe what we have come to call hedgerow dyeing.

We have very little archaeological evidence for professional dyers in this country at this time – some pottery shards with madder deposits, discarded madder roots, dyers greenweed remains, woad seeds, clubmoss and bog myrtle remains, and dye stuff was being imported. Whether this is evidence of a true professional dyeing business is another matter, but at least some form of dyeing was happening.

Hedgerow dyeing seems to be the term used for the dyeing of small amounts of fleece or yarn, or small garments done domestically with whatever plant is handy. This would for the most part give a result which would fade easily and need re-dyeing yearly.

Nowadays, when we buy yarn to make a garment, we are asked to buy the full amount needed for the garment, as dye batches even with modern techniques cannot be guaranteed to be of similar shades. How much more true is this problem for the medieval dyer. Even with crops, such as woad and madder, grown specifically in continental Europe as dye crops this problem would still exist.

Several factors can alter the colour that a dye plant will yield – the amount of sun and rain that it receives, the latitude at which it is grown, the pH level of the soil in which it is grown, the pH level of the water used for the dyeing process, how long the dyestuff is stored and in what way and lastly the actual dyeing process used ie the mordants or combination of mordant afterbaths, ratios of dyestuffs to fleece, yarn or cloth. All of these will alter either the colour obtained or the shade of the colour obtained.

Therefore, we cannot say – from madder you always get x-colour, x-shade, or x-depth of colour. The same goes for any other dyestuff.

Professionally dyed fibre would have generally been more consistent, but given the above, even that would not have been true to any great extent. So – what we have are a range of colours that could have been produced. That is the best that we can do.